I often hear families express the desire for “more space” in their house, and they think that adding a playroom for their young children is the way to go. They fantasize that if their kids have a space to go, all their toys will be contained. The imagined play space is a joyful, Pinterest-worthy room, where children’s imaginations run wild and maybe it’s also soundproofed!
I love that fantasy, too, but there are many other things that a family could spend home improvement money on that have more, “real” value and go beyond the limited functionality and need of a playroom (which often ends up as a giant, jumbled toy closet!) Before you spend the time and money on remodeling and building a state-of-the-art play room, think about these three things first.
1. Create something “for the kids,” that is flexible and has a life down the road.
If you have a raw space that can be easily converted to a knock-about space for the kids, go for it. But if you want to convert a previously unlivable space like an attic, basement, or garage to a playroom, remember:
- Even doing a little remodeling work on your house can be surprisingly expensive, so consider your needs carefully before investing in a space that may have a limited time frame for use.
- That playroom space will need to change as the kids grow so ensure that it has the flexibility to accommodate a variety of uses over time.
2. Consider putting the kids together.
So, you really want a play space. If your kids have separate bedrooms, consider putting them together and dedicating the leftover bedroom to their play space. Alternately, that extra bedroom could be a flex space for the whole family. Maybe set it up to also be a family craft room? Or have a daybed for guests or also function as a part-time home office? Then the kids’ bedroom can be a quiet refuge of sleep and dressing.
Young kids especially seem to enjoy sharing bedroom space and often prefer it over other sleeping arrangements. Of course, as they grow and their needs change, you can re-convert the extra room back into a bedroom easily.
3. Accept the chaos; it’s temporary.
Kids accumulate so many toys and stuff. Even the most diligent organizer of toys and embracer of minimalism will have moments during the kids’ childhoods where everything suddenly seems to explode. I say, embrace it!
When my daughter was small, I had several small baskets scattered around the house for toys. Two lived under the coffee table in the living room, one lived by my bedside, and one in the kitchen on an open shelf. That way, at any moment, I could just sweep through and throw things in a basket without a second thought. Some people find that it’s helpful to just have one spot for everything, but I found that as long as I had a dedicated, simple system for each room, it was way easier to “reset” and move on with my day.
Look critically at all the nooks and crannies of your home. I vastly prefer a cozy “play nook” to a full playroom which tends to overflow anyway. Consider the functions of all the other rooms in the home; a play kitchen is more fun in the real kitchen! We have carved out an area in our living room that has evolved from play kitchen to art table, and is now a reading nook. It’s by a sunny window and has cozy blankets and a basket for books and enough space for a handful of stuffies.
Just remember, every six months or so to take a fresh look at your child and their needs and readjust. Donate or give away toys they have outgrown. Take a fresh look at yourself, too, and where you are at in terms of the chaos. What’s working for your family and what is not? Take a glass of wine one evening and walk from room to room with a critical eye. How you are using the spaces? Are they efficient? Wasteful? What can be changed for the better? You may come up with simple solutions that don’t require digging deep into your savings or equity, and then you’ve saved your pennies for another day!
Amanda Erickson is the owner and principal designer of PDX Additions, LLC in Portland, Oregon. She loves working with families as they try to figure out the best options for their home in the near and long term.